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Plan To Transfer MSD Control May Be Circling The Drain

Bill Rinehart
The Metropolitan Sewer District serves 43 political subdivisions in Hamilton County, and has some customers in Butler, Clermont and Warren counties.

A year after Hamilton County and Cincinnati leaders thought they'd settled the future of the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD), the deal isn't done. And it may need to be reopened.

Under the 1968 agreement over MSD operations, Cincinnati ran the district, and the county approved the budget. The arrangement expired in April. Last summer, commissioners and council members agreed to give control to the county, but among other things, current and future employees would be in the city's retirement system.

But the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) rejected that plan.

Commissioner Chris Monzel says it's time to revisit what he supported during lengthy negotiations in the summer of 2017. "The path forward is to look at keeping current city employees in the Cincinnati Retirement System but any new MSD employees, who would be county employees, would be in OPERS," he says.

OPERS has indicated it would support that, but advises it would still need legislative approval.

The compromise to keep MSD employees on the city's pension was designed to keep that fund solvent.

Mayor John Cranley says in a statement the city is disappointed but will work with Hamilton County for a resolution. He says "our number one priority is to continue to push the County to authorize necessary improvements to critical infrastructure. For example, the aging Mill Creek wastewater treatment plant treats over 65 percent of the region's sewage—averaging 115 million gallons per day— and has critical deferred maintenance that must be addressed."

City and county leaders have debated for years over MSD operations.